Charles Mingus

Explosive albums from turbulent jazz bassist impeccably demonstrate his raucous, propulsive take on jazz history

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Bassist Charles Mingus’ turbulent personal history (as outlined by his infamous autobiography, Beneath The Underdog) was always extremely apparent in his raucous and relentlessly danceable take on both modern and traditional jazz.

Although it’s generally agreed he reached his peak on the two classic albums he made for the Impulse! label in the mid-’60s (The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady; Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus), there’s much to admire in the records that immediately preceded them.

These three albums amply showcase both Mingus’ wild momentum and his hollering call-and-response style (The Clown is dominated by his exhortations to his fellow players). The standout here, however, is definitely 1961’s Oh Yeah, which sees the addition of inspired tenor saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk and a surreal sound that reaches its peak on the apocalyptic “Hog Callin’ Blues”, a song that could teach The White Stripes something about the genre.


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